An outline of the parole process
Our primary role is to determine whether prisoners serving indeterminate sentences, and those serving certain determinate sentences for serious offences, continue to represent a significant risk to the public.
The main cases we oversee are for prisoners serving:
life sentences and sentences of imprisonment for public protection (IPP), under the Crime (Sentences) Act 1997, as amended.
- extended determinate sentences (EDS), under the Criminal Justice Act 2003 (as amended by the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012)
- sentences for offenders of particular concern, including terrorists and serious child sex offenders, under the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015.
We also consider:
- the re-release of prisoners who are recalled to prison for breach of their licence conditions under the Criminal Justice Act 2003.
There is more information about prison sentence types on this page on GOV.UK.
Member Case Assessment
Member Case Assessment, or MCA, is the first stage in the parole process. We cannot begin a prisoner’s parole review until their case has been referred to us by the Ministry of Justice’s Public Protection Casework Section. Once a case has been referred to us, we then receive the prisoner’s dossier from the prison where they are being held. The dossier is a collection of reports and evidence about the prisoner. One Parole Board member then reviews the dossier and makes an assessment based on the evidence contained within it. There are four possible outcomes:
- The member decides that an oral hearing is needed to hear evidence from the prisoner in person
- A negative decision, where the member decides not to let the prisoner out of prison
- recommendation for transfer to open conditions (this can only be done in some cases)
- For certain types of sentence, the member can decide to release a prisoner based on the information found in the dossier.
If the prisoner is given a negative decision, they have 28 days from the date of the decision to ask for an oral hearing. The prisoner or their solicitor can do this by writing to us. If the prisoner does not ask for an oral hearing within 28 days, the decision becomes final and they will stay in prison until they are eligible for a further parole review or released automatically under the conditions of their sentence.
An oral hearing is when Parole Board members hear evidence in person from a prisoner and from professionals who have worked with them during their time in prison.
When it is decided that a case requires an oral hearing, Parole Board case managers contact all the witnesses who will be attending (e.g. the prisoner’s solicitor, Offender Manager and Offender Supervisor) to find out when they are available. The case is then sent to our Listings Team to find a date on which all witnesses and Parole Board members can attend, and that the prison can accommodate.
In some cases, we may contact prisoners to ask them to agree to an observer attending their oral hearing. This is usually for training purposes for people involved in the parole process. Observers are not involved in the oral hearing or the decision making-process. Prisoners always have the right to say no to an observer attending the hearing.
An oral hearing panel can be made up of one, two or three Parole Board members. There will always be a panel ‘chair’ who is in charge of the hearing. For some cases a specialist member is needed. This could be a psychologist or psychiatrist.
Before the hearing date, the chair of the panel will review the prisoner’s dossier and request any additional information they feel the panel need to help them prepare for the hearing.
Sometimes, instead of travelling to the prison, the panel will be based at the Parole Hub in London and will conduct the hearing over a video link. This means witnesses at the prison will see the panel on a TV screen.
A written decision is issued within 2 weeks of the hearing date. When the Parole Board case manager receives the decision from the panel chair, they will then share it with the prisoner via their prison and all other interested parties (e.g. the prisoner’s solicitor and their Offender Manager.) If the prisoner is being released, the Public Protection Casework Section will confirm their licence conditions (see Licence Conditions Guidance for more information). If the prisoner is not being released, the Public Protection Casework Section will confirm the date of their next review.